There are many different types of bean available:
Climbing French Beans – French beans tend to be on smaller, more tender pods than runner beans. The immature pods are eaten whole, the semi-mature pods are shelled and the beans inside are eaten and ‘flageolets’ and the mature pods can also be shelled and eaten fresh or dried and stored, these beans are like kidney beans. Climbing varieties can reach up to 2.5m in height and are best grown up canes.
Dwarf French Beans – the same type beans are produced as on the climbers (above) but on more compact plants, generally about 45cm tall. These are good for growing in containers.
Runner Beans – Runner beans have a more pronounced flavour than French beans. The plants are more prolific (some can grow up to 2.5m tall) and the beans produced are very long and flat.
Dwarf Runner Beans – These produce beans just as good as on the large runner beans, only on very compact plants. These varieties are actually quite ornamental in containers.
When to Sow Beans Any beans from seeds: April – June
Any beans from young plants: Plant in May
Harvest Time Runner beans grown from seed: July – September Dwarf French beans grown from seed: June – October Climbing French beans grown from seed: June – August Dwarf French beans grown from young plants: July – August Climbing French beans grown from young plants: July – August Runner beans grown from young plants: July – September
Site and Soil Beans are happy in most soil types, but they do require it to be well dug. Their roots don’t like compacted soil, so before plants make sure the soil is loose to a depth of around 30cm.
Position beans in a sunny but sheltered spot, if possible. Because of their height, they can suffer from damage in very windy areas.
Provide canes or a combination of canes and Pea & Bean Netting for the beans to grow up (not necessary for dwarf varieties).
How to Grow Beans from Seeds
Sowing Beans can be sown directly outside or, if you’d prefer to start harvesting slightly earlier, you can start them off indoors and then plant them out in May.
To sow indoors, sow two seeds per 9cm pot or Rootrainer in April. Seeds should be sown 5cm deep. Leave to germinate on a windowsill, propagator or in a greenhouse and plant out into growing position once the roots fill the pot.
When planting outside, position the bean plants 15cm apart, making sure that a wigwam or climbing structure is in place for them to grow up.
Seeds can be sown directly outside at spacings of 15cm and a depth of 5cm from April in warm areas. Beans can be sown in rows (for criss-cross growing frame, or circles for wigwam growing frames).
Harvesting Harvesting Runner beans and French beans is fun and easy. Pick them from the plant whenever they reach the desired size – the more you pick, the more will grow. If you have too many to eat in one go they can be frozen for use at a later date.
If Runner or French beans are left to grow a bit too big, they can be shelled and used at the ‘Flageolets’ stage.
Storing The easiest way to store broad beans is by freezing them. This way they can be used cooked or defrosted as and when needed. Beans can also be shelled, dried and stored in air-tight jars.
Bean Pests and Diseases Runner and French beans can be susceptible from the following pests and diseases:
Slugs – Slugs are attracted to the young plants.
Blackbean aphid/blackfly – Young shoots are often covered with masses of black aphids. These growing tips can be snipped off and disposed.
Bean Seed Fly – Can prevent germination and attack seedlings. They’re at their worst in cold, wet soils. They can be prevented with Insect Netting until germination has taken place.
Pollen Beetle – may attack open flowers. It’s best not to control them with chemicals, but they shouldn’t cause a problem with your crop.